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The 'explosion-proof' computer

Computer Dynamics' explosion-proof computer contains spark, but it's not bomb-proof.

Computer Dynamics

Turns out the "explosion-proof" computer that's been making the rounds on the gizmo circuit may be safe to use at the gas pump, but it won't do you any good to sit on it while cruising Karbala.

The Ruffneck Zone 1 Computer can be used for virtually any application, in the harshest of environments by the most careless and abusive operators, according to Computer Dynamics. It has a 15-inch touch screen that's readable in any light condition (including direct sunlight), is impact-resistant and can be operated by gloved hands. But no, it's not bomb-proof.

So what, exactly, can it withstand? Ian McMurray of Computer Dynamics explains it this way: "The term 'explosion-proof' in this instance describes the fact that the Ruffneck can contain an internal explosion rather than withstand an external explosion."

He gives this example. The Zone 1 is deployed near an open oil well where explosive gas is known to lurk. Some of this gas makes its way into the computer, where an inverter is generating some very high voltage to drive the backlights that illuminate the display.

"For some reason, the inverter fails and causes a spark. The spark ignites the gas that is inside our Zone 1 enclosure. Boom. The force of the explosion rapidly expands the air volume inside the Zone 1. Due to the way the Zone 1 is designed, the explosion is contained and the energy from the explosion is released, in a controlled manner, to the outside world at an energy level so low that the external atmosphere is not ignited and a catastrophic accident is avoided."

In other words, without this hazardous-location feature, a computer could go from faithful friend to fuel-air bomb in a femtosecond.

To know your zones, go to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and U.S. Class I Zone.